Tag Archives: RGO ONE Transceiver

Mission RGO One: Impressions, availability, pricing and upgrades

Readers might recall that I picked up a Mission RGO One 50 watt transceiver from Boris (LZ2JR) at the 2019 Hamvention. I’ve been helping Boris and his team evaluate this Bulgarian-manufactured general coverage transceiver since then.

I’ll be writing a comprehensive review of the Mission RGO One for The Spectrum Monitor magazine later this year, but in the meantime I thought I’d post a quick update.

I’ve gotten a number of emails from readers asking specific questions about this transceiver and its availability/pricing. Here are a few answers to your questions:

Is it a good one?

This is the most common question, of course.

In short: the Mission RGO One has exceeded my expectations. The RGO’s noise floor is low, the dynamic range high, the audio pleasant, and the ergonomics are top-notch. As I said in a previous post, you can tell the RGO One was designed by an active ham radio operator. The radio is a pleasure to use and harkens back to the days of benchmark pre-SDR transceivers.

Keep in mind I have a very early evaluation model and it’s due a firmware upgrade. The only negatives I’ve experienced are ones I would expect as we flesh out minor firmware bugs. Indeed, most all of these have been sorted already.

I’ve used the RGO One in both the shack and in the field and find it’s a capable radio in both situations.

In fact, last year I taught a ham radio class to a group of home-schooled high school students. Of course, I wanted to offer them proper on-the-air time so they could experience a little HF radio magic. My radio of choice was the RGO One for its ease of use and excellent built-in audio.

I took the class outside and we connected the RGO One to a resonant portable 20 meter vertical. One of the very first SSB contacts we made was with a ham radio operator in Slovenia–with solid 5 by 9 reports on both ends. After that, my students were hooked! (In fact, four of my seven students have since passed their ham radio license exam! I’m incredibly proud of them.)

If you’re curious how well the RGO One holds up during contest conditions in CW, I highly recommend checking out this CQWW report by John (AE5X).

Market niche

With a large number of QRP and 100 watt sub-$1000 transceivers on the market–including the Elecraft KX2, Yaesu FT-818/FT-891, Icom IC-718/IC-7300, to name only a few–where does the Mission RGO One fit in?

Good question.

In my mind, what makes the RGO One unique is the fact that it has the price, weight, and form factor of a field-portable, front-panel QRP transceiver, but is capable of pumping out a full 50 watts of power without an external amplifier.

The RGO one is lighter (about 5 lbs) and draws less current on receive than most comparable 100 watt general coverage transceivers.

I see the RGO One becoming my choice radio for most Parks On The Air (POTA) field activations this year. In the past, I’ve used my beloved Elecraft KX2 for NPOTA and POTA activations because it’s extremely portable and incredibly versatile. I’ll still use the KX2 for activations that require hiking or in situations where I can’t easily set up a tabletop radio, but I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had a little more TX output Since the RGO One can provide up to 50 watts out, it’ll give me a little more “juice” when conditions demand.

Availability and pricing

At present, there are a limited number of early production Mission RGO One transceivers in the wild. The company is in the process of scaling up production.

To that end, you will now find a Mission RGO One pre-order form on their website.

The price is 790 Euro (roughly $880 US) plus shipping. There will be two shipping options: directly from Bulgaria, and from the USA in mid-May 2020. These units will all be fully factory assembled and aligned.

It’s my understanding that eventually there will be a modular kit version of the RGO One and the price will be much less than that of the assembled unit.

Internal ATU option

The RGO Team is also in the final stages of producing an optional high-performance internal ATU.

I have no details about pricing or availability yet, but I will be testing this ATU in the shack and in the field later this year. After I’ve evaluated the ATU, I will publish my full review of the RGO One in The Spectrum Monitor magazine.

Other Questions?

As you might have gathered, I’ve really been enjoying my time with the Mission RGO One transceiver. Lately, it’s even taken the place of my beloved KX3 in the radio shack.

Please comment if you have other questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.


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Taking the new Mission RGO One transceiver to the field!

SWLing Post readers might recall that last year at the 2018 Hamvention, I met with radio engineer, Boris Sapundzhiev (LZ2JR), who was debuting the prototype of his 50 watt transceiver kit: the Mission RGO One (click here to read that post).

Since last year, I’ve been in touch with Boris, and we arranged to meet again at the 2019 Hamvention so I could take a closer look at the RGO One, especially since he has started shipping the first limited production run.

The RGO One delivers everything Boris promised last year and Boris is on schedule, having finished all of the hardware design and having implemented frequent firmware updates to add functionality.

Excellent first impressions

I’ll be honest: I think the RGO One was one of the most exciting little radios to come out of Hamvention this year. Why?

First of all, in contrast to some radios I’ve tested and evaluated over the past two years, I can tell immediately that the Mission RGO One was developed by an active ham radio operator and DXer.

Here are some of the RGO One features and highlights as taken from the preliminary product manual (PDF):

    • QRP/QRO output 5 – 50W [can actually be lowered to 0 watts out in 1 watt increments]
    • All mode shortwave operation – coverage of all HAM HF bands (160m/60m optional)
    • High dynamic range receiver design including high IP3 monolithic linear amplifiers in the front end and diode ring RX mixer or H-mode first mixer (option).
    • Low phase noise first LO – SI570 XO/VCXO chip.
    • Full/semi (delay) QSK on CW; PTT/VOX operation on SSB. Strict RX/TX sequencing scheme. No click sounds at all!
    • Down conversion superhet topology with popular 9MHz IF
    • Custom made crystal filters for SSB and CW and variable crystal 4 pole filter – Johnson type 200…2000Hz
    • Fast acting AGC (fast and slow) with 134kHz dedicated IF
    • Compact and lightweight body [only 5 lbs!]
    • Custom made multicolor backlit FSTN LCD
    • Custom molded front panel with ergonomic controls.
    • Silent operation with no clicking relays inside – solid state GaAs PHEMT SPDT switches on RX (BPF and TX to RX switching) and ultrafast rectifying diodes (LPF)
    • Modular construction – Main board serves as a “chassis” also fits all the external connectors, daughter boards, inter-connections and acts as a cable harness.
    • Optional modules – Noise Blanker (NB), Audio Filter (AF), ATU, XVRTER, PC control via CAT protocol; USB UART – FTDI chipset
    • Double CPU circuitry control for front panel and main board – both field programmable via USB interface.
    • Memory morse code keyer (Curtis A, CMOS B); 4 Memory locations 128 bytes each

What really sets the Mission RGO apart from its competitors is the fact that it’s compact, lightweight (only 5 lbs!), and has a power output of up to 50 watts. Most other rigs in this class have a maximum output of 10 to 15 watts and require an external amplifier for anything higher.

The RGO One should also play for a long time on battery power as the receive current drain is a modest 0.65A with receiver preamp on.

The RGO is also designed to encourage a comfortable operating position. The bail lifts the front of the radio so that the faceplate and backlit screen are easily viewed at any angle.

The keypad is intuitive and–hold your applause!–all of the important functions are within one button or knob press!

The front panel design is simple and clean. There are no embedded menus to navigate to change filter width, power level, RF gain, keyer speed, mic gain, pre amp, or audio monitor level. Knob spacing is excellent and I believe I would even be able to operate the RGO while wearing gloves.

Even split-operation is designed so that, with one button press, you can easily monitor a pile-up and position your transmit frequency where the DX station last worked a station. (This is similar to the Icom XFC button). The user-interface is intuitive; it’s obvious to me that Boris built this radio around working DX at home and in the field.

Speaking of the field…

Parks On The Air (POTA) with the Mission RGO One

At my request, Boris has kindly loaned me one of the first production run units to test and review over the next few months. I intend to evaluate this radio at home, in the field, and (especially) on Field Day. By July, I should have a very good idea of how well this Bulgaria-born transceiver performs under demanding radio conditions!

I had planned to begin my RGO One evaluation after returning home from Hamvention, but I couldn’t resist taking it to the field, even though the propagation forecast was dismal.

The first leg of my journey home from Hamvention took me to Columbus, Ohio, on Monday, so I scheduled a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation of Delaware State Park, K-1946.

Delaware State Park (POTA K-1946) in Delaware, Ohio.

My buddy Miles (KD8KNC) and I met our mutual friend Mike (K8RAT) at the park entrance and quickly found a great site with tall trees, a little shade, and a large picnic table.

We set up the RGO One and, for comparison, my Elecraft KX2 for the POTA activation.

I won’t lie: band conditions were horrible. Propagation was incredibly weak, QRN was high, and QSB was deep. Yuck!

Still, this activation gave me a chance to test the RGO One in proper field conditions.

I was limited to SSB since the only CW key I had with me, the paddle specifically designed to attach to the front panel of the Elecraft KX2, wouldn’t work with the RGO One. In addition, I was limited to 25 watts output because the antenna I deployed, the LnR Precision EFT Trail-Friendly end-fed antenna, can only handle power up to 25 watts.

Although I had never operated the radio before, I was able to sort out most of its functions and features quickly.

The receiver audio was excellent and the noise floor seemed quite low to my ears. The internal speaker does a fine job producing audio levels that are more than ample for a field setting.  Still, I prefer operating with a set of earphones in the field–especially important on days like this when propagation equates to a lot of weak signals.

Although I failed to make a total of ten contacts to claim a proper POTA activation, I was pleased with offering up K-1946 to seven lucky POTA hunters/chasers. I simply didn’t have enough time available to work three stations more at such a slow QSO rate.

Of course, my signal reports were averaging “5 by 5” and were never more than “5 by 7” regardless of which rig–the RGO One or the KX2–I was using. The reports on the RGO One transmit audio reports were great.

Stay tuned!

I will publish my first review of the Mission RGO One in The Spectrum Monitor Magazine, most likely in August or September.  In the meantime, I will post updates here as I put the RGO One through its paces. I’m especially excited about using it during Field Day with my buddy Vlado (N3CZ) to see how it holds up in such an RF-dense environment.

And now that the POTA bug has bitten me?  Expect to catch me on the air with the RGO One over the next few weeks!

If you’re interested in following the Mission RGO One, bookmark the tag: RGO ONE.


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The Mission RGO ONE: A new 50 watt all mode HF transceiver

Shortly after posting a set of photos I took at the 2018 Hamvention, I received a number of reader inquiries regarding one particular radio: The Mission RGO ONE.

I found this cool tabletop transceiver in the flea market area of the Hamvention early Saturday morning and included it with my inside exhibits photos. I wasn’t able to gather a lot of information from the representative at the time because the Hamvention staff opened the gates to general admission a full 30 minutes early, so I had to make a sprint to my table at the other side of the fairgrounds.

The following specifications/features were listed on the RGO ONE product sheet:

  • QRP/QRO output 5 – 50W
  • All mode shortwave operation – coverage of the 9 HAM HF bands (160m optional)
  • High dynamic range receiver design including high IP3 monolithic IC in the front end and H-mode first mixer
  • Low phase noise first LO – SI570 chip
  • Full/semi QSK on CW; VOX operation on SSB.
  • Down conversion superhet topology with 9MHz IF
  • Custom made crystal filters for SSB and CW and variable crystal 4 pole filter – Johnson type
  • Stylish and professional look
  • Compact and lightweight body
  • Multicolor FSTN LCD
  • Silent operation with no clicking relays inside
  • Modular construction – Mother board serves as a “chassis” also fits all the external connectors, daughter boards, inter-connections and acts as a cable harness.
  • Optional modules – NB, AF, ATU, XVRTER
  • PC control via CAT protocol; USB FTDI chip
  • Memory morse code keyer (Curtis A, CMOS B)
  • Contest and DXpedition conveniences

For even more detail, I recently contacted the rig’s developer, Boris Sapundzhiev (LZ2JR), who kindly answered all of my questions.

Boris replied:

Hello Thomas,

Thanks a lot for your message and interest about our new homebrew project that we called RGO ONE. Here you can find more about the radio:

QRP HF Transceiver

There are clickable highlights on the text which lead to a schematic diagram for each module so you can have a look if you like. Final documents and last revision of schematics will be available soon.

The idea of this project was inspired of an old TEN-TEC radios with 9MHz IF – their perfect analogue design and crystal crisp audio both CW and sideband. Mine have two very old TEN-TEC ARGOSY 525D and several moreTEN-TEC equipments. So with the help of the new electronic components available on the market we realize this old concept…

We’ve been working hard for almost three years to see what you saw at Dayton flea market table. A real performing HF 50W CW/SSB transceiver. We are 4 people in the team.. Other team mates are very good in industrial electronics manufacturing and helping very much with electronic PCB design, parts delivery, microprocessors and other things.

The idea of the front panel and other constructions design is mine .. I literally drew it in a couple of hours then our CAD designer put it in AUTOCAD/INVENTOR 3D design software.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

LCD we made in China and already stocked plenty of LCD and backlight units. Front panel is made by means of plastic mold method:

Here it is:

FACE PANEL MOLD PLASTICS OR ALUMINUM MACHINED

So far we got two samples that we tested already in real conditions and made several contest (LZ2RS helped with this task).

You can seek for video clips on YouTube (my channel) to see how it works.

Click here to view on YouTube.

I am back in Bulgaria now and today we had a team meeting so it is decided to start first lot 10pcs which will be completely ready to run. The time range of this is somewhere next two months. Then next lot will be 100 units probably some of them or most of them will be in a kit form with ready populated SMD small foot print components.

At the show in Dayton we revealed our target price for the base version – $450-$550. Hope to keep it as promised but final price will be available when first units come to alive.
First units will ship from Bulgaria, then we will try to stock more units in US.

This is briefly about our intentions of the project. A lot of interest, expectations and positive “WOW” feedbacks received so this urge me to go fast forward.

73, GL

Boris LZ2JR/AC9IJ

Thank you for the detailed reply, Boris! I will certainly follow this project with interest and post updates (readers: bookmark the tag RGO ONE).

I love the size of the RGO ONE and the fact it’s capable of a full 50 watts out in such a portable form factor. The front panel is very attractive, ergonomic and the backlit LCD screen is quite easy to read at any angle.

Boris, if you manage to hit your target price of $550 or less, you’ll no doubt sell these by the hundreds! I’ll be watching this project with interest.

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